Taking care of one’s voice is crucial if you’re making a living as a voice-over talent. Like singers, a voice actor must make sure that the voice is in tip-top condition at all times. It is, after all, our living.
Many of the daily routines a voice-over talent should follow are about lifestyle. Being picky about what you eat and drink and ensuring enough rest for your vocal cords are some key takeaways from this post. Although it might not have an immediate effect, many habits can affect the vocal cords’ health over time.
What you drink and eat before and while recording can be crucial for the quality of the end result. For example, if you’ve ever recorded an audiobook or other long-form content, you may know that coffee is not very beneficial if you’re prone to “mouth-noise.”
It’s vital to listen to your voice and what the body is trying to tell you. If you notice that your voice isn’t at its best, these tips might help. They might even help you endure longer takes without feeling exhausted.
Drink plenty of water
Water is like lubrication for the vocal cords, so you should always have a glass of water nearby – preferably at room temperature. In addition to keeping the voice healthy and the body hydrated, it also prevents headaches. You can even eat food with high water content, like apples, melons, and cucumbers.
Pro tip: when I record, I drink lukewarm water with a slice of lemon in it. Cold water may be more tempting, but it strains your vocal cords and neck muscles.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
You should avoid large amounts of both caffeine and alcohol. Obviously, you shouldn’t be intoxicated while recording, but even having a few too many the night before might reduce your endurance and dehydrate you to the point where you can’t possibly sound your best. Both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, so you get dehydrated from both.
Get enough rest
A voice actor uses his voice a lot. Maintaining a dynamic and consistent vocal performance throughout the day can be very strenuous. Getting enough rest and remembering to take breaks can help prevent unnecessary wear and tear on the vocal cords.
If you’re working in a recording booth, such as a Whisper Room or a closet, you know what I’m talking about when I say it can get hot and stuffy! I prefer taking breaks more often, rather than using fans and ventilation systems. That ensures a quiet recording space, but it does mean I have to get out of the booth every now and then for some fresh air.
Don’t abuse your voice
Speaking loudly or shouting strains your vocal cords. Be aware of how you use your voice at all times. Stage actors have to project their voice for hours, but you’ll likely get better results if you do the exact opposite as a voice-over talent. This isn’t just about taking care of your voice; if you project less you’ll sound more natural.
Pro tip: use “cans” (a headset) when doing long-form recordings. It will help you speak at a lower volume, making sure you’re not straining your voice. I prefer to put the cans away for shorter recordings because commercial voice overs tend to sound more like a radio presenter with them on. It’s a matter of taste.
Smoking and vaping can hurt your vocal cords and performance. If your voice is your living it makes sense to take extra good care of it.
Don’t clear your throat
Clearing your throat can damage your vocal cords. If you feel the urge to do so, have a glass of water instead. Coughing and clearing your throat is like giving your vocal cords a beating.
Listen to your voice
Familiarize yourself with the signs of a tired voice. A hoarse and sore throat could mean you need a break. Don’t force yourself through a recording, but take a break instead. An hour of rest can be all you need to get back on your A-game.
If the hoarseness doesn’t go away in 1-2 weeks, you should talk to a doctor.
Don’t bring work to bed
You wouldn’t think so, but life as a voice-over can actually be stressful. When stress builds up over time, it can lead to physical problems, including muscle tension in the jaw, digestive issues, and sleep problems.
Many voice actors who work from home are aware of this. It’s vital to take breaks, get outside, and breathe some fresh air, see other surroundings, and “recharge your batteries.” A relaxing walk in nature can do wonders for both body and soul.
You should also avoid taking your job to bed. I’m horrible at following my own advice here, and I often bring my iPad to bed, answering e-mails and messages here on Fiverr. I’ve been known to read an entire book in one go before my head hits the pillow. The next day, when I go in to record that book, I’m half asleep — bad idea. Don’t do it.
If you’re sick but have to work
You shouldn’t work with a sore throat, but sometimes we have to. It can be an urgent project for an important client or an audiobook with a delivery deadline. Fortunately, there are some tips to save your voice - temporarily.
Cut up some ginger root with lemon and mix with water. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it simmer for an hour or so. Don’t boil. Strain the mixture into a cup and drink while hot. This trick can work wonders on a tired or sick voice.
Another tip that works best for less intense irritation is lemon herbal tea with honey, rest, and preferably a good night’s sleep. These tricks can help, but nothing is as important as letting your voice rest until it’s well again.
I hope these tips can be useful for my fellow VOs here on Fiverr! I’m sure you got your own routines and tips, and I’d love to hear them!